Cubs lay out pitching plans as Quintana, Chatwood return
The Cubs are getting some pitching reinforcements, as José Quintana and Tyler Chatwood will return from the injured list.
Chatwood will rejoin the rotation and take the ball for Tuesday night’s outing in Detroit while Quintana will work out of the bullpen, manager David Ross said.
Chatwood was dominant in his first couple starts of the season before struggling in Kansas City his third time out. He was scratched from his next start with back tightness and wound up going on the IL for the injury.
Quintana, meanwhile, has not pitched yet in 2020 as he sliced his thumb the week before summer camp started. He’s been working his way back over the last month, including a 2-inning sim game last week.
He has notched only 2 appearances out of the bullpen since his rookie season, 1 of which came in the playoffs (2017 NLDS). He made his 2019 debut out of the bullpen, striking out 8 over 4 innings in the Cubs’ second game of the season down in Texas.
The Cubs are also keeping an eye on Saturday’s scheduled doubleheader in Cincinnati as well as a stretch that includes 14 games in the first 13 days of September.
“The goal is first to get a look at [Quintana] and he’s been stretched out, so we’ve got some length down there in the ‘pen with him down there,” Ross said. “And then just as he builds up, we’ve got some doubleheaders coming up, so we’ll navigate that of who’s pitching well and just kinda take that as it goes. We understand he’s a starter option for us moving forward if we need that.”
The Cubs wanted to ensure Quintana would be comfortable making the move to the bullpen after being a mainstay in the rotation for the last seven years (at least 31 starts each season).
The veteran left-hander was all for it.
“I’m really happy to be back and I’ve been working really hard to be back as soon as possible,” Quintana said. “I know it took me a little bit of time, but now I feel ready to do my job. Whatever role I get, I’m happy to be there.
“…It’s awesome to be back and be around my teammates.”
With Quintana’s relative inexperience out of the bullpen, Ross wants to make sure to put him in the right situation to succeed.
“I’m gonna try to give him a clean inning, let him get up and have time to start that [inning], Ross said. “I’m not gonna bring him in in the middle of traffic, or try not to. That’s not my thought. The goal is to give him a clean inning and let him get some length.
“Obviously I also have an obligation to the game and the team to do what’s best for the team. Balancing that is my job, but I’d like to get him some length out of there for sure.”
Quintana knows that one of the main adjustments in front of him will be getting loose in a hurry down in the bullpen. He will no longer have a pregame routine to get himself stretched out and warmed up before taking the ball in the 1st inning.
As he was working his way back to the big-league mound, the Cubs put it on Quintana’s radar that he might move to the bullpen upon his return.
In South Bend, Quintana said he’s been happy with his performance and been able to hit his spots on a consistent basis. He’s also been working on his changeup and building up his strength and velocity back to normal levels.
And he still feels like he has something to prove.
“The beginning was a little frustrating because you step back and get strong again — my arm, nothing about my thumb, but my shoulder, elbow,” Quintana said. “It’s tough. But now I feel really happy to be back strong and show what I got, what I do.”
As for Saturday’s doubleheader, Ross said Adbert Alzolay is in the mix for one of those games.
At the moment, the Cubs are planning on keeping their rotation in the same sequence and they can either call up Alzolay or pull Quintana from the bullpen for the extra game.